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As Marawi siege rages, US troops train Filipinos in urban warfare

American soldiers trained Philppine troops in urban warfare as the battle of Marawi contiues to rage. US Embassy/Released

MANILA, Philippines — As Filipino security forces struggle to liberate a small pocket of Marawi City from the hands of Islamist militants, the Philippines turned to the United States to train its soldiers in urban warfare, the American embassy said on Friday.

In a statement, the US Embassy said that American Marines are training their Filipino counterparts to improve their basic urban warfare techniques based on the feedback from security forces fighting in Marawi, a once-vibrant town of 200,000 which has been into an urban battlefield by the clashes between government troops and Islamist rebels.

The embassy said that the urban warfare techniques covered by the training in Zambales last week included how to clear classrooms, hallways and multi-level buildings.

The statement said that forces from the US Marines' 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, 3rd Marine Division trained Filipino troops as part of the Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama 2017.

"During Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Sama Sama 2017 last week in Zambales, Philippines, U.S. Marines from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, 3d Marine Division helped Philippine Marines to improve their basic urban warfare techniques based on feedback from Philippine military forces in Marawi," the embassy said. "These techniques included how to clear rooms, hallways, and multi-level buildings."

The American outpost said that the exercises were meant to strengthen "cooperation and interoperability" between the two armed forces.

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The training came as the siege of Marawi entered its 39th day on Friday, a sign of the difficulties that the Philippine government has been facing in trying to rid the city of militants who attacked the town on May 23.

Based on latest government figure, the clashes have killed 303 Islamist fighters, 82 security personnel and 44 civilians.

Ernesto Abella, a presidential spokesperson, said that the local government and non-governmental organizations had been able to remove 1,713 civilians from the conflict zone. Security personnel were also able to confiscate 382 firearms.

The Philippine military continues to pound around four villages at downtown Marawi where the remaining militants are entrenched.

Aside from the training, the US military has provided its Filipinos with "technical support" on information gathering.

The US is the Philippines' strongest ally although relations between the two nations have been frayed under President Rodrigo Duterte who said that he wanted American soldiers to leave his home island of Mindanao.

As its relation with the US became complicated, the Philippines under Duterte started to cozy up with China and Russia as he tried to woo in investments and business to finance his massive infrastructure projects and lift millions out of poverty.

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